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Last Updated: May 31, 2019
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In 2018, a group of the world’s largest crude oil and natural gas producers added more hydrocarbons to their resource base than in any year since at least 2009, according to the annual reports of 116 exploration and production (E&P) companies. During 2018, these companies collectively added a net 10.3 billion barrels of oil equivalent (BOE) to their proved reserves, which totaled 286 billion BOE at the end of the year. Total exploration and development (E&D) costs incurred in 2018 for these companies increased 4% from 2017 levels, but declined 9% from 2017 when calculated as dollars per BOE of proved reserves added. This analysis is based on published financial reports of these 116 companies and does not necessarily represent the financial situation of private companies that do not publish financial reports.

Of the 116 companies, the top 18 held more than 80% of the 286 billion BOE in proved reserves at the end of 2018. Although many of these companies have global operations, some are national oil companies with reserves and operations concentrated in their home countries including Russia, China, and Brazil. Proved reserves change from year to year because of revisions to existing reserves, extensions and discoveries of new resources, purchases and sales of proved reserves, and production. Figure 1 illustrates the 116 companies’ combined proved reserves changes during 2018.

Figure 1. Regional proved reserves for 116 exploration and production companies

Organic additions to proved reserves—those added through improved recoveryand extensions and discoveries—are linked directly with expenditures in E&D. Proved reserves acquired through purchases and sales represent transfers of assets between companies (including companies outside this group) but are not reflected in E&D expenditures. Revisions to proved reserves can be highly influenced by changes in crude oil and natural gas prices but less directly influenced by E&D investment.

Of the 21.0 billion BOE in organic proved reserves added in 2018 (that is, before accounting for revisions, net reserves purchased, or how much the companies produced), slightly more than half (10.7 billion BOE) came from the United States, while the Russia, Central Asia, and Asia-Pacific region accounted for 4.0 billion BOE (19%). Canada added 2.1 billion BOE (10%) and Latin America added 1.6 billion BOE (8%). Europe and the Middle East and Africa region each added fewer than 1.0 billion BOE, accounting for about 4% of global organic proved reserves additions each (Figure 2).

Figure 2. Regional organic proved reserves additions for 116 exploration and production companies

Global E&D costs incurred increased for the second consecutive year in 2018, increasing 4% to $319 billion. Of this total, 38% ($122 billion) came from the United States, with the Russia, Central Asia, and Asia Pacific region accounting for 26% ($83 billion) and all other regions accounting for less than 10% each. Changes in nominal year-over-year E&D costs incurred varied across regions, increasing by 33% in Europe, 13% in the United States, and 3% in the Middle East and Africa region. Costs incurred declined by 2% both in the Russia, Central Asia, and Asia Pacific region and Latin America, while spending in Canada was essentially flat compared with 2017 (Figure 3).

Figure 3. Regional exploration and development costs incurred  for 116 exploration and production companies

Because significant cost deflation has occurred in the oil and natural gas industry since 2014, nominal costs incurred in different years may not be directly comparable. Finding costs provide an indicator of the expenditures needed to add a barrel of proved reserves. Because of the disparity between the timing of companies’ capital expenditures and the formal reporting of changes to their proved reserves, standard practice is to average the results over several years.

Analyzed this way, three-year average costs declined on a per BOE basis in 2016–18 compared with both the 2013–15 and the 2010–12 averages (Figure 4). The three-year average E&D costs incurred per BOE of organic proved reserves additions in 2016–18 were lower than their respective 2013–15 and 2010–12 averages in all regions except Latin America, where the 2016–18 average was slightly higher than its 2010–12 average. On an annual basis, the 2018 E&D costs incurred of $15.20 per additional BOE of proved reserves was the lowest since at least 2009.

Figure 4. Finding costs for 116 exploration and production companies

For further analysis and a list of the companies included in this study, see EIA’s annual Financial Review. Later this year, EIA will issue its annual U.S. crude oil and natural gas proved reserves report which focuses exclusively on proved reserves located in the United States, including all U.S. producers (publicly traded and privately owned companies).

U.S. average regular gasoline and diesel prices decrease

The U.S. average regular gasoline retail price fell 3 cents from the previous week to $2.82 per gallon on May 27, down 14 cents from the same time last year. The Gulf Coast price fell over 4 cents to $2.47 per gallon, the West Coast price fell nearly 4 cents to $3.63 per gallon, the Midwest price fell 3 cents to $2.71 per gallon, the East Coast price fell nearly 3 cents to $2.70 per gallon, and the Rocky Mountain price fell less than one cent, remaining at $2.98 per gallon.

The U.S. average diesel fuel price fell more than 1 cent to $3.15 per gallon on May 27, 14 cents lower than a year ago. The price in each region fell over one cent. The West Coast price fell to $3.78 per gallon, the Rocky Mountain price fell to $3.18 per gallon, the East Coast price fell to $3.16 per gallon, the Midwest price fell to $3.04 per gallon, and the Gulf Coast price fell to $2.89 per gallon.

Propane/propylene inventories decline slightly

U.S. propane/propylene stocks decreased by 0.1 million barrels last week to 65.8 million barrels as of May 24, 2019, 9.8 million barrels (17.5%) greater than the five-year (2014-2018) average inventory levels for this same time of year. Gulf Coast and East Coast inventories decreased by 0.7 million barrels and 0.5 million barrels, respectively. Midwest and Rocky Mountain/West Coast inventories increased by 0.9 million barrels and 0.3 million barrels, respectively. Propylene non-fuel-use inventories represented 8.0% of total propane/propylene inventories.

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December, 01 2021
Royal Dutch Shell Poised To Become Just Shell

On 10 December 2021, if all goes to plan Royal Dutch Shell will become just Shell. The energy supermajor will move its headquarters from The Hague in The Netherlands to London, UK. At least three-quarters of the company’s shareholders must vote in favour of the change at the upcoming general meeting, which has been sold by Shell as a means of simplifying its corporate structure and better return value to shareholders, as well as be ‘better positioned to seize opportunities and play a leading role in the energy transition’. In doing so, it will no longer meet Dutch conditions for ‘royal’ designation, dropping a moniker that has defined the company through decades of evolution since 1907.

But why this and why now?

There is a complex web of reasons why, some internal and some external but the ultimate reason boils down to improving growth sustainability. Royal Dutch Shell was born through the merger of Shell Transport and Trading Company (based in the UK) and Royal Dutch (based in The Netherlands) in 1907, with both companies engaging in exploration activities ranging from seashells to crude oil. Unified across international borders, Royal Dutch Shell emerged as Europe’s answer to John D Rockefeller’s Standard Oil empire, as the race to exploit oil (and later natural gas) reserves spilled out over the world. Along the way, Royal Dutch Shell chalked up a number of achievements including establishing the iconic Brent field in the North Sea to striking the first commercial oil in Nigeria. Unlike Standard Oil which was dissolved into 34 smaller companies in 1911, Royal Dutch Shell remained intact, operating as two entities until 2005, when they were finally combined in a dual-nationality structure: incorporated in the UK, but residing in the Netherlands. This managed to satisfy the national claims both countries make on the supermajor, second only to ExxonMobil in revenue and profits but proved to be costly to maintain. In 2020, fellow Anglo-Dutch conglomerate Unilever also ditched its dual structure, opting to be based fully out of the City of London. In that sense, Shell is following the direction of the wind, as forces in its (soon to be former) home country turn sour.

There is a specific grievance that Royal Dutch Shell has with the Dutch government, the 15% dividend tax collected for Dutch-domiciled companies. It is the reason why Unilever abandoned Rotterdam and is now the reason why Shell is abandoning The Hague. And this point is particularly existentialist for Shell, since its share prices has been battered in recent years following the industry downturn since 2015, the global pandemic and being in the crosshairs of climate change activists as an emblem of why the world’s average temperatures are going haywire. The latter has already caused the largest Dutch state pension fund ABP to stop investing in fossil fuels, thereby divesting itself of Royal Dutch Shell. This was largely a symbolic move, but as religious figures will know, symbols themselves carry much power. To combat this, Shell has done two things. First, it has positioned itself to be at the forefront of energy transition, announcing ambitious emissions reductions plans in line with its European counterparts to become carbon neutral by 2050. Second, it is looking to bump up its dividend payouts after slashing them through the depths of the Covid-19 pandemic and accelerating share buybacks to remain the bluest of blue-chip stocks. But then, earlier this year, a Dutch court ruled that Shell’s emissions targets were ‘not ambitious enough’, ordering a stricter aim within a tighter timeframe. And the 15% dividend tax remains – even though Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s coalition government has been attempting to scrap it, with (it is presumed) some lobbying from Royal Dutch Shell and Unilever.

As simplistic it is to think that Shell is leaving for London believes the citizens of the Netherlands has turned its back on the company, the ultimate reason was the dividend tax. Reportedly, CEO Ben van Buerden called up Mark Rutte on Sunday informing him of the planned move. Rutte’s reaction, it is said was of dismay. And he embarked on a last-ditch effort to persuade Royal Dutch Shell to change its mind, by immediately lobbying his government’s coalition partners to back an abolition of the dividend tax. The reaction was perhaps not what he expected, with left-wing and green parties calling Shell’s threat ‘blackmail’. With democracy drawing a line, Shell decided to walk; or at least present an exit plan endorsed by its Board to be voted by shareholders. Many in the Netherlands see Shell’s exit and the loss of the moniker Royal Dutch – as a blow to national pride, especially since the country has been basking in the glow of expanded reputation as a result of post-Brexit migration of financial activities to Amsterdam from London. The UK, on the other hand, sees Shell’s decision and Unilever’s – as an endorsement of the country’s post-Brexit potential.

The move, if passed and in its initial stages, will be mainly structural, transferring the tax residence of Shell to London. Just ten top executives including van Buerden and CFO Jessica Uhl will be making the move to London. Three major arms – Projects and Technology, Global Upstream and Integrated Gas and Renewable Energies – will remain in The Hague. As will Shell’s massive physical reach on Dutch soil: the huge integrated refinery in Pernis, the biofuels hub in Rotterdam, the country’s first offshore wind farm and the mammoth Porthos carbon capture project that will funnel emissions from Rotterdam to be stored in empty North Sea gas fields. And Shell’s troubles with activists will still continue. British climate change activists are as, if not more aggressive as their Dutch counterpart, this being the country where Extinction Rebellion was born. Perhaps more of a threat is activist investor Third Point, which recently acquired a chunk of Shell shares and has been advocating splitting the company into two – a legacy business for fossil fuels and a futures-focused business for renewables.

So Shell’s business remains, even though its address has changed. In the grand scheme of things, never mind the small matter of Dutch national pride – Royal Dutch Shell’s roadmap to remain an investment icon and a major driver of energy transition will continue in its current form. This is a quibble about money or rather, tax – that will have little to no impact on Shell’s operations or on its ambitions. Royal Dutch Shell is poised to become just Shell. Different name and a different house, but the same contents. Unless, of course, Queen Elizabeth II decides to provide royal assent, in which case, Shell might one day become Royal British Shell.

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